A Brief History of Vaping: Everything You Need to Know

A Brief History of Vaping: Everything You Need to Know
Here's a rundown on how vaping came to be.

Vape, alongside the culture surrounding its use, has achieved notable popularity among consumers, especially those who want to quit smoking or don’t want to try smoking in the first place. It is everywhere and can no longer be called a novelty product

But that wasn’t always the case. Vapes, just like any other innovation, started from humble beginnings. Here’s a rundown on the history of vape.

A Brief History of Vaping: Everything You Need To Know

The Beginnings of Vaping (1927)

On May 3, 1927, Joseph Robinson filed a patent for a vaporizer aimed at holding medicinal compounds. He was motivated by his observation that existing devices used for the same purpose proved to be unsafe and unsanitary. His Mechanical Butane Ignition Vaporizer would be easy to use and just as easy to clean.

The device comprised a hollow handle with a ferrule on the top end. The ferrule had an opening that led to a tube in the handle, where the attached thimble held the medication container and the base. 

While the patent was approved, Robinson did not release the device to the market. 

The Smokeless (1963)

In 1963, the U.S. reached an all-time high in cigarette consumption, burning through 523 billion sticks. Herbert A. Gilbert, a scrap metal dealer who was a two-pack-a-day smoker, invented what he called the Smokeless.

Gilbert touted the device as a safe alternative to smoking. He also promoted it for weight loss, as dieters could smoke their favorite flavors instead of eating them such as mint, rum, and cinnamon.

The “Smokeless” was a simple black aluminum cylinder with a silver tip. A battery-powered device warmed the cylinder containing liquid, resulting in vapor. 

No company got behind Gilbert’s idea. However, his patent was credited by future e-cig inventors as an inspiration. 

Exploration of Other Nicotine Delivery Systems (1979)

Computer technologist Phil Ray and physician Norman Jacobson came up with an e-cig that was successful enough for the idea to be introduced in the market. However, it eventually failed due to what Jacobson described as an inherently faulty system.

The duo’s e-cig relied on evaporation instead of the vaporization of nicotine. That made it technically non-electronic.

The device was designed like a cigarette made of plastic. Inside was filter paper soaked in nicotine that went bad after a few days. It provided a nicotine dose without the combustion. The product was called “Favor,” with the tagline “Do yourself a favor.”

More FDA Patents But Not Cigar (1990s)

Numerous patents were filed by individual inventors and tobacco companies as nicotine inhaler devices. Many relied on physical propulsion or evaporation. Some were chemical reaction-based, similar to modern e-cigs.

One noteworthy example was RJ Reynolds’ “Eclipse,” which fell somewhere between a combusted cigarette and a nicotine inhaler. It was touted as a “heat-not-burn” device.

The Vapotronics Group also developed combustion and smoke-free cigarette technology. The device was supposed to contain the equivalent of 20 cigarettes without the health risks linked to combustible smoking.

While many patents were submitted, most were rejected by the FDA.

The Birth of the Modern Vape (2003)

Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik developed the modern e-cig to provide an alternative to conventional smoking. His father, a heavy smoker, died of lung cancer, so he wanted to kick the habit before he succumbed to the same fate.

The modern e-cig has three main components: lithium-ion batteries, an atomizer, and a cartridge that can contain either a non-nicotine or nicotine liquid solution. Once activated, the battery heats the liquid solution. Meanwhile, the atomizer turns the liquid into vapor, hence the term vaping.

China approved the patent. The product hit the market in 2004 via the company Ruyan.

Vaping Slowly Takes a Foothold in the West (2006)

The first e-cigarette reached the U.S. and European soil. The steady increase of the device’s popularity, linked to it being sold as a safer alternative to traditional smoking, attracted the interest of public health experts and medical researchers.

The first-generation e-cigs soon inspired domestic counterparts in the U.S called cigalikes. However, these devices did not gain enough support from heavy smokers due to their weak nicotine content. Also, there was heavy regulation to contend with.

A Spate of Regulatory Issues (2008)

Turkey’s Health Ministry zeroed in on e-cigs, later deciding they were as potentially harmful as smoking regular tobacco. As such, the office suspended electronic cigarettes. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a statement claiming that e-cigs could not be considered legitimate aids for smoking cessation.

WHO’s assertion was later refuted by a study in New Zealand. They released a study showing that e-cigs’ carcinogens and other toxic compounds are too low to cause serious harm. E-cigs are up to 1,000 times less toxic than traditional tobacco.

The Rise of the #VapeLife (2010s)

Vaping’s popularity continued to increase. That is alongside studies that sought to unravel whether it was indeed safe, as compared to conventional smoking. Meanwhile, for avid vapers, smoking e-cigs became more of a lifestyle, with vape shops and communities cropping up worldwide.

In Great Britain, 2.6 million adults who vape are ex-smokers. This suggests that vaping may be a contributor to the country’s falling rates of adult and young smokers.

The study titled “Comparison of Free Radical Levels in the Aerosol from Conventional Cigarettes, Electronic Cigarettes, and Heat-Not-Burn Tobacco Products” shows that e-cig aerosol contains lower levels of almost all compounds found in tobacco products’ list of Harmful and Potentially Harmful Constituents. 

The Future of Vaping

From its humble beginnings, vaping has come a long way. Now it’s embedded in modern culture, one that we won’t see going away anytime soon.

We can expect further innovation in vaping technology that will pave the way to more quality vapes. Hopefully, these updates will further improve not just the user experience but the device’s safety quotient, too. 

Get Puffin’

When you hold a vape in your hand, remember that you own something with a history. Vape as you know it now is the product of the imagination and innovation of people who cared enough to invent something that could be of use to many. So, when you inhale and exhale vapor from your vape of choice, remember that you, too, are part of vape’s unfolding history. Make sure every puff counts.

Visit the official RELX store for a wide variety of quality vapes. Smoke cool.